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Court procedure 'is not a Broadchurch'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 22/01/15

Many political parties are described as 'broad churches', as are, strangely enough, some churches. However, the same cannot be said about the practices of legal profession when it comes to the conduct of court proceedings.

Not that any lay person would know from watching the latest episode of another Broadchurch - the TV programme. Yes, it might be very entertaining and the cast includes the bloke who used to be Doctor Who - let's face it, at any second we expect the sonic screwdriver to come out - but in terms of legal accuracy, it is not so much broad as off the scale for inaccuracy.

Viewers with any kind of legal expertise noted a range of major errors: A criminal trial that starts within weeks of the murder, witnesses being allowed to listen to proceedings when their presence was not required, legal arguments over the admissibility or otherwise of a confession taking place in front of the judge and jury - all these were out of line with real procedure.

Speaking to the Daily Express, barrister Nigel Pascoe QC said he could "practically hear the tears of the legal advisor" as the show was screened.

Despite being a big fan of Broadchurch after its first series, he complained that often a courtroom drama can be spoiled by such inaccuracies.

The QC added: "Sadly, legal nonsense has now infected Broadchurch. Charlotte Rampling is a very fine actress and I can well see her as a senior silk doing the business.

"But please! Interviewing the witnesses even by accident, even coaching them, is not on, even in these liberated days."

Of course, there may be a solution at hand if the makers of future TV shows decide to take steps to improve the legal accuracy of such proceedings.

Mr Pascoe, who has been involved in more than 100 murder trials in a career stretching back to 1988, writes and performs plays in his spare time.

So if there is to be a third series of Broadchurch, perhaps he could be one of the writers.